Welcome to the English Morts, and the family of Henry Mort.
THE MORT FAMILY, IN ENGLAND
story of the Jonathan Mort family in America begins in the town of Culcheth,
England about twenty miles east of Liverpool. The story begins with Henry Mort,
born at Hindley in 1783 in the parish of Wigan of a Presbyterian family, and
married to Mary Dorning on May 17,1807. There is considerable evidence that
Henry's father was James Mort, and his mother was Ellen Parr. Of the Morts who
were living in Hindley around 1780, the family of James Mort was the only family
known to have been Presbyterian. The records show that James and Ellen, married
in 1780, had a son by the name of James who was born in 1787, four years younger
than Henry and also raised in Hindley. And finally the English followed a rather
strict naming tradition. Among traditional English families the first-born son
was almost always named after the paternal grandfather, and the first-born
daughter after the maternal grandmother. In Henry Martís family, his first son
was named James and his first daughter was named Ellen after Mary Dorning's
mother, Ellen Tinsley. It seems fairly clear that Henry and Mary Dorning carried
on this English naming tradition in their family, and also interesting that
Jonathan's first son was named James Henry which were the names of his father
Soon after the marriage of Henry Mort to Mary Dorning at Wigan, they settled on a farm owned by Mary Dorning's father Joseph Dorning. The Dornings were a very old and well established family in Culcheth and lived on this farm from 1660 to 1844. Henry and Mary Mort lived in one of three cottages at what was called the Hey Farm. The Hey Farm later to be called the Cross Lane Farm comprised forty acres which for that time was considered a big piece of land. Except for the cottages where Henry and Mary lived, the Cross Lane farm with its house and farm buildings are still standing and continue to earn a living for the present owner David Leah. To the marriage of Henry and Mary seven children were born James, Joseph, Jonathan, Ellen, John, Mary and Margaret. It is from Jonathan Mort, the third son of Henry and Mary Dorning Mort that the American Morts owe their heritage.
Nearby the Dorning farm was The Risley Presbyterian chapel built around 1707 where the Morts worshipped and where Henry was listed as an elder of the Church. Many of the Mort children were baptized, married and buried at the Risley chapel and cemetery. While the Risley chapel was torn down in 1972 to accommodate a freeway, the cemetery where some of our Mort ancestors are buried remains. In the cemetery one can easily find the tombstone for Henry Mort which reads "..Of Henry Mort, who for a great number of years was an elder of this Church, who departed this life the 17th day of March 1867 in the 84th year of his age."
The life of the Mort family in England centered around working the fields on the Dorning farm and weaving cotton. Cotton weaving was a big cottage industry in the time of Henry Mort and his family. Since the spinning process of cotton was developed earlier than weaving, the cotton mills of the nearby cities at Manchester and Liverpool had need of families who would spend long backbreaking hours on hand looms to produce cloth for the Mill. This is how Henry Mort and countless other families helped subsidize their meager earnings. In 1825 there was a total population of 2,090 living in Culcheth and surrounding villages. Of the 690 who listed themselves as employed, 278 were listed as cotton weavers, 388 were silk weavers, and another 22 were woolen weavers. Sometime after 1825 Power Looms were introduced in the Cotton Mills and rather suddenly this huge cottage industry became obsolete. For a time families such as those of Henry Mort continued with silk weaving which was the last to be mechanized. In the 1841 census you will find that Henry Mort's children are still listed as both cotton weavers and silk weavers, but clearly it was a craft in decline.
was schooling provided for the children at Culcheth. Typically boys at the age
of 8-11 were taught how to read, write and how to keep books. Most likely
Jonathan and his brothers attended the school at Twiss Green in Culcheth. The
school had been in existence since 1691. The boys who attended had to be at
least eight years old and were allowed to remain for three years. They were
taught how to read free of charge, but for writing and keeping accounts a small
fee was required. One can get a very good indication of Jonathan Mort's
schooling by looking at a ledger that he kept during the time he lived in Spring
Green and later in Corning Iowa. The method Jonathan used for keeping track of
income, expenses and supplies he clearly learned at school in Culcheth. A couple
of pages from his ledger are included at the end of the photo section of this
The Children of Henry and Mary Mort were born during the years from 1808 to 1827. James, Joseph, and John all had large families ranging from nine to twelve children with all three men remarrying and dying relatively young in their fifties. The death certificates frequently list consumption as the cause of death. Mary Dorning as far as we know died sometime around 1828 or 1829, and is probably buried in the Dorning grave at the Risley cemetery. We do know that on June 15,1831 Henry Mort remarried a woman by the name of Sarah Lawton at Warrington. The census documents for 1841 and 1851 show that the Morts are still living in Culcheth except for Jonathan Mort who left for America in 1844. In the 1851 census Joseph Mort is listed as a silk weaver and clogger living at the Row with his wife Alice and eight children. Henry Mort and his second wife are still living at Cross Lane as is his son James and wife Hannah. John Mort and his family were living at the blacksmith's cottage.
In the following section on the English Morts you will notice the names of two families that had an interesting relationship to the Morts in Culcheth, the Hills and the Rogersons. James Mort married Hannah Hill for his second wife, and of course Margaret Mort married Thomas Hill who also immigrated to the United States. Ellen Mort married James Rogerson; and another member of the Rogerson family, Arthur Rogerson, later came to the United States and his descendants are living in Beatrice Nebraska. In the 1841 census Jonathan does not appear as living in Culcheth or at the cottage with Henry and Sarah. He was 28, and it is thought that Jonathan may have been working at Liverpool as a ship's carpenter prior to coming to America. He was a skilled carpenter, and one of his grandsons recalled hearing from his parents that Jonathan had been a shipwright in England, and the most likely place for that craft would have been at Liverpool.
Mort Family History has been a collaborative effort by a number of people, many
of whom have now passed away. We are all indebted to the late Eric Jones, who
was a great grandson of Joseph Mort, the older brother of Jonathan from whom we
American Morts are descended. Eric spent many long hours in writing to records
offices in England in order to get copies of birth, marriage, and death
certificates for the children and grandchildren of Henry Mort. In addition he
helped organize and type the genealogical information contained in this volume.
I owe a special word of thanks to Henry Henshaw, and to Betty Rowe of Shenandoah
Iowa for her outline of the Mort family which helped initiate this project, to
Barbara Dennis for her wonderful book on the Dorning family, and to Don
Gradeless, a member of another American Mort family, who initially gave a great
deal of his time inputting this information on to a computer program. I want to
thank all of you for help in sending me your family information.
And finally I want to dedicate this book to the memory of my dear
parents, Ernest and Mildred Mort, and to my two brothers Gene and Tom who passed
away since I completed this project.